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Austin’s largest firms continued to show slight gains this year in the number of minority lawyers employed, leaders of two minority attorney groups say. Of the almost 1,200 attorneys employed by Austin’s 26 largest firms, 126 — or 10.6 percent — are black, Hispanic, Asian or Native-American, according to figures compiled by the Hispanic Bar Association of Austin and the Austin Black Lawyers Association. That’s up from 9.8 percent in 2001, says ABLA vice president Brian Jammer, deputy general counsel at the Texas Credit Union League. The minority percentages are based on data from National Association of Law Placement forms or HBAA/ABLA forms filled out by the firms. This marks the third year that the groups have graded the firms’ progress in hiring minorities. Paul Ruiz, chairman of the joint committee formed by the two groups to evaluate the firms’ efforts, says the 2002 numbers are encouraging, although some firms need to work harder to achieve diversity. “We think some firms are really doing a bang-up job on this,” says Ruiz, a shareholder in Austin’s Clark, Thomas & Winters. Jammer says 13 firms received an “A” because they had more than 12.5 percent minority lawyers — the percentage of the 69,200 attorneys in Texas who are minorities, according to State Bar of Texas figures. Two firms — Andrews & Kurth, Mayor, Day & Caldwell and Winstead Sechrest & Minick — earned an “A plus” rating, the report card shows. Others that received an “A” are Bickerstaff, Heath, Smiley, Pollan, Kever & McDaniel; Bracewell & Patterson; Brown McCarroll; Hilgers & Watkins; Jenkens & Gilchrist; Strasburger & Price; Gray, Cary, Ware & Freidenrich; Lloyd, Gosselink, Blevins, Rochell, Baldwin & Townsend; Locke Liddell & Sapp; Thompson & Knight; and Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati. The groups gave failing grades to Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody, which reported that two (3.7 percent) of its 54 lawyers are minorities, and Scott, Douglass & McConnico, with two (4.5 percent) of its 44 lawyers reported as minorities. Jammer says eight firms earned an “A” in 2001, while four received an “F.” Graves, Dougherty and Scott, Douglass were among the firms that received failing grades in 2001. Mike McKetta, president of Graves, Dougherty, and Tom Albright, managing partner of Scott, Douglass, each did not return a phone call by presstime on Aug. 1. Haynes and Boone and Hughes & Luce received a “D-minus” on the 2002 report card, and Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld and McGinnis, Lochridge & Kilgore earned a “D.” Nina Cortell, chairwoman of Haynes and Boone’s attorney development and diversity committee, says the report is “a little unfair” because the groups look only at the firm’s Austin office, which this year lost two minority lawyers to other offices within the firm. Cortell says Haynes and Boone is committed to diversity and received the Thomas Sager Award from the Minority Corporate Counsel Association earlier this year in recognition of its efforts to recruit and retain minorities. The firm also sponsors four scholarships for minorities at the University of Texas School of Law and Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, she says. Britt Buchanan, hiring attorney for Hughes & Luce in Austin, says the firm wants to do better than a “D-minus” and has in the past. In 2001, the Austin office had four minority attorneys, but lost two of them this year, Buchanan says. Hughes & Luce does hiring firmwide, and 12 of its 147 attorneys are minorities, he says. John Breihan, chairman of McGinnis, Lochridge’s employment committee, says the firm would be “delighted” to have more minority lawyers and partners. Breihan says five of the firm’s eight summer associates are minorities but says he does not know how many of them will receive employment offers. Ann Thompson, spokeswoman for Akin, Gump, says she did not have an opportunity to review the report card and that David Nelson, the partner in charge of the Austin office, was on vacation and unavailable for comment. Rex D. VanMiddlesworth, managing partner for Andrews & Kurth in Austin, says the firm focuses on recruiting and retaining minority attorneys and tries to give minority attorneys responsibility for cases early in their careers. “It’s not enough just to get minority attorneys in the door. You have to try very hard to create an atmosphere where they can flourish,” VanMiddlesworth says. This year, the HBAA and ABLA also graded firms’ efforts to hire minority attorneys. Firms received “E” for excellent, “S” for satisfactory and “U” for unsatisfactory for activities such as participating in minority job fairs, providing mentors for minority students at law schools or establishing a committee within a firm to promote diversity. Nine firms were rated as “excellent,” 10 were rated “satisfactory” and two firms’ efforts were rated “unsatisfactory.” Information on the recruiting efforts of five firms was unavailable, Ruiz says.

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